Interview with Curry Tian, Student Academy Award Winner, Director and Versatile 3D Artist
Fox Renderfarm, as the world premier cloud rendering services provider, is beyond excited to have an in-depth conversation with MoGrapher/ Director/ Fashion Photographer and also our beloved client - Curry Tian.
Mographer/ Director/ Fashion Photographer
She won the 2020 Student Academy Award for “Simulacra”, and other 10 international awards.
Meanwhile, her portfolio is quite contentful and impressive, such as Mercedes-Benz, Canon, and Beats, etc.
She is open-minded and always willing to try new things. Her NFT artwork sells quite well on SuperRare, a marketplace to collect and trade unique, single-edition digital artworks. Moreover, her latest NFT creation, CCisDreaming, which debuted during Art Week in Miami in December, 2021 and was rendered with Fox Renderfarm has earned her a great reputation, even Grimes reposted the artwork to root for her.
For her popularity in the MoGraph industry, Maxon, Motion Plus Design, Motion Design Awards and many other brands and events sent their invitation to Curry to ask her to share the production of her artworks and insights about CG creations.
Luxury Italian maison, Tod’s teamed up with Curry to reimagine their bag - the Skirt Bag, resulting with striking images which speak to the versatility that both Curry and the bag embodies.
In our interview with Curry, she talked about how she grew to be an artist stepping foot in various fields, the production details of her award-winning artwork and NFT artwork, her opinion on NFT art, and her sincere advice to CG artists. This is definitely an interview you should not miss.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you introduce yourself?
Curry: Hi Fox Renderfarm, I’m Curry. I’m a research scholar at Harvard CAMLab as a CG artist lead. Beforehand, I also do 3D motion design and directing.
Fox Renderfarm: Could you share with us your education and working experience? How did you become a slashie holding various roles including director, 3D artist, fashion photographer, and so forth?
Curry: My educational background is very ordinary and typical. I was born in Shijiazhuang, China. I majored in Design and Visual Communications, and Journalism and Communication when I took my undergraduate in Tsinghua University. At that time, I worked on a lot of narrative and graphic design content, realizing that storytelling would bring more possibilities in design when I was researching journalism and media images. So I started to learn Cinema 4D, fashion photography and live-action filming.
Photo by Curry (2016)
After I undergraduated, I took my Master‘s degree in Animation & Digital Art at the University of Southern California. And that is when I officially stepped foot in motion design. Since I thought the film market in the US was better and I was eager to find a job, I got the chance to get in touch with Motion Plus Design and some top-tier artists in this industry, earning a bit reputation with my labels on.
Curry Tian x Motion Plus Design
Exquisite Corpse 2020 © Curry Tian
I chose to work in an advertising agency in the US after graduation. Since I didn’t have much vision about my career, I went back to China and worked in the ad industry. However, due to the high pressure in the ad industry and my lack of motivation in the highly intensive input & output process, I got some fresh air in Harvard at the moment.
Detective Chinatown Main Titles, 3D Design: Curry Tian
Fox Renderfarm: What is the inspiration of Simulacra?
Curry: Frankly speaking, Simulacra is about an elderly Buddhist woman recalls a ritual from her past, undertaking a journey of duality expressed through her many identities.
But from what I’m seeing now, Simulacra is not that integral fundamentally. It is based on the denial of my proximity - I didn’t feel like expressing myself through Simulacra, instead, I created something fictional and metaphysical. Thus, Simulacra is a combination of what I’m fond of with multiple sections, such as, Won Buddhism, Butoh, an integrated context of Eastern and Western culture, and so forth.
Of course, there were some practical intentions behind it. I did want to make my name, want to try the integration of live-action shoots and 3D art, and want to show my skillsets in 3D creation. Meanwhile, the core of its narrative ought to bond with my cultural background.
Live action / Motion capture
Fox Renderfarm: How was the pipeline of Simulacra?
Curry: I used Cinema 4D and Redshift mostly. Some simulations were done in Houdini. The composition of the live action and 3D is made in Nuke. Then, character design in Daz Studio, clothing design in Marvelous Designer, texture design in Substance Painter.
Fox Renderfarm: Have you met any difficulty when creating Simulacra?
Curry: In hindsight, there aren’t many obstacles narrative-wise. The problem was that I was a one-girl team in 3D production, I had to make all the CG work on my own. Thus, I decided not to do all the craft myself anymore, but to cooperate with others in my later career planning.
On the other hand, my workflow took many forms and I usually break down my time. For example, if I was about to make one shot tonight, I may not even have a very clear picture of what I was going to make. Therefore, my later creation will focus more on visual narrative instead of solving technical problems.
Fox Renderfarm: Please introduce your NFT artwork Illuminate the Void.
Curry: I was invited to participate in the NFT art program themed “Ignition” initiated by Motion Plus Design. Personally, I am obsessed with the term “duality”. In this perspective, ignition connects with darkness. Besides, that the elements of the female body and language and power were added in this creation which is also very visually driven. In my imagination, it will be like what Samuel Beckett and Thomas Stearns Eliot would create, giving off an aura as Roland Barthes described that artwork has, even though its audiences don’t really care about the story behind.
Much emphasis was put on the lighting and texturing. The pipeline was much the same as the one applied on Simulacra. One Houdini artist helped me with the simulations, like the growth of the body and the fog. After the simulation in Houdini, we exported it directly into Cinema 4D using Redshift's proxy. There are many SSSs in it, so I asked a friend to help with the rendering which was quite time-consuming.
Fox Renderfarm: As an artist, what’s your opinion on NFT art?
Curry: To be honest, I am quite new to the business operations behind it. Whereas, I’ve met many excellent artists and seen plenty of crossover artworks while attending the events. I don’t know if this is brought by my strangeness to this new field or its innate order of value. I’ve sold 6 pieces of artwork without much promotion, and the first few pieces were sold relatively quickly. Plus, I don’t know the buyers in person so far. Therefore, as an artist, I treat NFT art as a good business to earn some money.
(Left) Supreme Pole-02, Owner: veritaskami
(Right) Supreme Pole-01, Owner: veritaskami
SIMULACRA-01, Owner: veritaskami
Besides that, the value of art is something worth contemplating both by me and the whole society. Some people asked me why I only took out 6 pieces to sell since I have numerous personal works and my pieces sell well. I’ve always been pondering on NFT art. It provides a platform to let us realize that digital artists have their own social context, at the same time, digital art has the aura as Roland Barthes mentioned, and the value of artworks.
SIMULACRA-02, Owner: veritaskami
Supreme Pole-03, Owner: aoi_vault
THE IMITATION STONE 01-The Impurity of the Body, Owner: aoi_vault
After consideration, I selected the pieces which I thought were appropriate to be presented as artworks and put them on sale. Selling my daily practice is not something I would agree on. Now, NFT art has also become my creative motivation, inspiring me to think about what I want to create and what I am pursuing. So, maybe after twenty or thirty years, I hope my NFT artworks are still valid but not something ironic.
Fox Renderfarm: How to improve CG techniques and artistic sense?
Curry: When making CG, I think one essential thing is taking shortcuts. Many people are surprised at how simple it is when they see my project file. I rarely use Substance Painter to draw texture, but choose procedural texture to make it seem organic. Of course, this won’t be feasible if you are making something with high-definition requirements. But for beginners, it is a considerably effective way.
Supreme Pole © Curry Tian
During making Simulacra, many of the files were left unorganized, and the scanned data was very heavy. A rigorous pipeline is necessary, such as what I mentioned before, Redshift’s proxy. You can make each object a proxy and connect them into Cinema 4D instead of the redundant transferring between software which also results in heavy files. All this is to get a light file before rendering.
Simulacra © Curry Tian
Technically, I encourage artists to think bottom-up. That is, if you are able to master a skill in a short period of time, it will greatly boost your confidence. After strengthening your skill sets, the top-down thinking pattern seems more viable.
Supreme Pole © Curry Tian
Speaking of artistic sense, I find it a bit intangible and not easy to describe. It is something beyond the shape and form. You cannot reluctantly pursue it, however, it can be improved without that much effort. The most important thing is to be focused. No matter you are a dancer, a Buddhism scholar, or a CG artist, the fundamental truth beneath is that, being successful means you’ve sacrificed many things, and have dedicated yourself to that specific field. There doesn’t require following any trend but your true passion. That’s also something I will keep on doing. My advice is to do more and say less if possible.
Supreme Pole © Curry Tian
Fox Renderfarm: Any new step?
Curry: I’m working on some personal projects, commercial ones where I am mainly responsible for directing, and also some projects combining 3D and live action.
CANON EOS R5 8K Promotional Video © Curry Tian
Other than that, my current work is more about academic research, thus, I want to do something academically valid with abundant visual language. However visual language is a tool to present texts and narratives. Of course, this tool has to be sharp and worth-seeing and can make the audiences wow about it. Daily practice is something I won’t miss. I’d like to explore new things, like theatre. But I will mainly work on the combination of 3D and live action.
Fox Renderfarm: Any artists that inspire you?
Curry: Given the fact that my thinking pattern is much based on the storytelling and the texts, I am more into classic artworks. Rem Koolhaas in architecture, Robert Wilson, Peter Greenaway, and Dimitris Papaioannou in experimental theatre, Pina Bausch in performance, Jacques Lacan and Nietzsche in philosophy are all the artists that offer me a lot of inspiration. Learning is the most effective way for a person to “take advantage of” this society, you can gather a big amount of information about this society in a short period of time.
CCTV Headquarters, designed by Rem Koolhaas
Shakespeare's Sonnets, directed by Robert Wilson
The Baby of Mâcon, directed by Peter Greenaway
The Great Tamer, directed by Dimitris Papaioannou
The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Pina Bausch
Jacques Lacan (left), Nietzsche (right)
Recently, it occurs to me that my surroundings are something that left a great impact on me. So I am also writing now, which is a practical way for me to get myself organized. I gradually gained a more profound understanding about the environment where I grew up. Whether good or bad, my surroundings shape my thinking pattern.
Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about Fox Renderfarm?
Curry: Many of the artists around me mentioned Fox Renderfarm. As for my experience, the pipeline in Fox Renderfarm really makes sense. Their staff is really patient, helping me solve technical problems.
Fox Renderfarm: Any other things you want to share?
Curry: It is important to be objective. Creation doesn’t seem to have a strong connection with your life and other methodology you adopt in your life. I gradually discovered that they do have a relevant connection. You can use creation as a way to get yourself together if you haven’t formed a well-organized order in your life. Reversely, when you confront a big challenge in creation, you may find solutions in some other aspects other than creation itself. Since a challenge may not be the challenge itself, it can be a projection of something not going on well in your life. Don’t rush if there is an obstacle, check out from some other perspectives, don’t push yourself too hard.
Design-Semi Permanent 2019 © Curry Tian
Surely, you should always keep on creating. Saying without practicing doesn’t make sense in the CG industry. I learned my skills through persistence. Again, don’t rush, you can definitely make it if you want.
Saṃsāra © Curry Tian
Last but not least, communicate with others. There are tons of excellent artists out there. Reach out to them and see how they think and create. And thank Fox Renderfarm for inviting me today. Let’s learn and progress together!
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